The path forward for most products includes production methods that are demonstrably not harmful to the environment – or have long-term environmental benefits. While the opportunity for promoting these products is clear, the marketing jargon is often not.
Building a brand strategy for a sustainable product is filled with pitfalls and potential. To successfully chart your course, be specific, transparent, practical, and principled.
Say What You Mean
The time is ripe for new brands to challenge market leaders and contribute to the greater good by offering sustainable or eco-friendly products. It’s critical that this opportunity be capitalized responsibly – which is often a difficult path to navigate. Here are key considerations that have proven successful for many of our clients.
1. Define your unique voice and perspective.
Your brand voice will be driven by your product’s purpose. Define that purpose clearly. Establish the specific environmental problem that you’re trying to solve, such as:
- To become carbon neutral
- To restore or preserve a specific area of the world
- To reduce landfill waste
Once you know exactly what your product seeks to accomplish and why, you can then explain it to customers in clear language. Research what similar products are saying – if they exist.
Imperfect Foods, for example, takes on a big mission – becoming a net-zero carbon company that keeps quality food out of landfills – and clearly communicates its action plan and accomplishments to consumers, one bite at a time.
Image source: imperfectfoods.com
Eco-friendly messages aren’t uniform statements; they should meld to your brand persona. Cut through the noise and connect with your buyer and the consumer with a uniquely authentic voice. Such as Liquid Death Mountain Water, sold in tallboy cans, with its Murder Your Thirst/Death to Plastic manifesto.
Image source: liquiddeath.com
2. Be specific with your claims and transparent with your research.
Terms like “sustainable,” “eco-friendly,” and “green” are meaningless without specific claims or benefits. Use those words as overarching teasers, then back them up. Specific product claims like “biodegradable,” “home compostable” (which is not the same as “industrial compostable”), or “made with post-consumer recycled content” are the core of your story.
For instance, if you lead with “sustainable takeout packaging,” explain what that means with something like “home-compostable containers made from renewable sugarcane fiber.”
3. Back up every environmental claim with research or testing.
Truth in adverting is critical here. If you make a sustainability claim, it must be backed by valid research. You need to have that substantial evidence on file when called to account by the FTC and other regulatory bodies. Work with a legal expert. Understand the specific laws in your area and know which disclaimers and what kind of proof must be included with specific terms such as “biodegradable.”
4. Consider the entire product lifecycle when crafting your sustainability story.
Environmental claims often focus on the product’s end-of-life situation, such as whether it will biodegrade in a landfill, compost in your backyard, or recycle easily when it’s all used up. But consider also the beginning and middle of your product lifespan to paint a clear picture of your total sustainability story. This includes:
- Supply chain inputs
- Production processes
- Product usage
- Ethics/fair trade practices
5. Build your brand to last – even if your product doesn’t.
Avoid the “first product trap” which is naming your brand after the first product you launch with it. Set your brand up for future success with an ownable identity that's relevant and sustainable in the long-term.
Example: When naming phade®, we could have pursued a name like “Eco-Straw” or “Bio-Straw.” Not only are those uninspired and generic, but they also lock the brand into being a straw. The name phade® sets the brand up for long-term growth beyond the introductory straw product.
Also be careful when connecting a brand name to a specific environmental claim (e.g. biodegradability) as you may innovate new products in the future with different claims that could benefit from the umbrella brand equity you establish from the onset.
6. Explain why it matters in human terms.
The research supporting demand for environmentally friendly products is mounting. Use it to you advantage by linking claims to market trends. Explain why it matters in clear terms – why your buyer should care.
7. Connect with your buyer’s practical side.
Having a vision with lofty environmental goals is good, but how do your environmental claims make a business case to potential buyers? For example, you could make the case that your product:
- Simplifies a complicated waste stream
- Improves operational efficiencies
- Reduces waste in production and therefore creates a more economical product
8. Speak to your customer’s customer.
B2B brands with sustainability benefits will be at an advantage when they clearly explain to the buyer what those benefits will mean to their customer. What are you doing to help your customers communicate your brand’s unique benefits? Remember to make it as easy as possible for them to make the connection and then sell the idea up the ladder.
To sell phade® to operators, we helped them speak to their customers.
Buyers are ready for environmentally friendly products. With the right forward-thinking, you can be, too.